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Can you sue if you were partly responsible for a crash?

Most people understand that if they are injured by a negligent driver, they can sue the driver to recover compensation for their damages. For example, if you are sitting in your car at a red light and a drunk driver smashes into your car, breaking your broken arm, you may file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver to recover the costs of your medical expenses and other damages.

However, in many car accident cases, it isn't easy to assess fault. For instance, in some two-vehicle crashes, both drivers were going over the speed limit. In that sense, both parties may have contributed to the accident. Are you barred from filing suit if you contributed to the cause of the accident?

The short answer to this question is no.

Massachusetts law addresses this type of problem through a legal theory known as contributory negligence. Under this theory, you may file suit even if you were partially at fault for the accident, so long as you were not more at fault than the other driver. Essentially, the court must determine what percentage of fault each party contributed to the accident.

So long as you are not more than 50 percent at fault, you may recover damages from the other party. However, whatever you recover will be reduced by the same percentage you were at fault. If the court determines you were 25 percent at fault for the accident, it will reduce the amount you can recover in damages by 25 percent.

If you have been injured in an accident, speak to a personal injury attorney to learn about your options. You may be able to recover more than you realize.

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